June 22, 2008
June 22, 2008
June 25, 2008
Educational Research and Methods
13.32.1 - 13.32.20
A Direct Method for Teaching and Assessing Professional Skills in Engineering Programs
Proficiency in ABET professional skills (the knowledge, attitudes and values described in outcomes 3f-j) are critical for success in the multidisciplinary, intercultural team interactions that characterize engineering careers in the 21st century. While there have been many program-level efforts across the nation to develop these “soft” skills, such as capstone projects that incorporate study abroad and service learning, no direct method of measuring all six skills simultaneously exists in the literature. This project proposes an innovative and direct method of developing and assessing ABET professional skills simultaneously that can be used at the course-level for assessing student performance and at the program-level for assessing efficacy of the curricula.
In 2007, the Center for Teaching, Learning and Technology (CTLT) at Washington State University (WSU) collaborated with the College of Engineering and Architecture’s eight engineering programs to develop an authentic performance task called the curricular debrief, as well as a scoring tool based on the ABET professional skills and the nationally validated WSU Critical and Integrative Thinking Rubric. Up to eight randomly-selected senior-year students from each program participated in the curricular debrief sessions. Students were presented with an authentic, unresolved engineering problem in their field and asked to discuss implications and propose some approaches to address the multi-faceted problem. Assessment specialists then trained 21 faculty from the eight programs on how to use the rubric to rate transcripts of the curricular debrief discussions. Based on the rating results, faculty then proposed next steps for improving teaching and assessment in their individual programs.
Results from the preliminary round of curricular debriefs showed that students in most programs were fairly unaware of contemporary issues in their engineering field, as well as unaware of related current national or international concerns. Students were also challenged with understanding the impact of engineering solutions in multiple contexts, particularly societal and global. Communication during the discussion was also a common challenge for students, as some seemed unfamiliar with sharing leadership or opposing views while respecting differences. In some sessions, a few students tended to dominate discussion and make decisions for the team without coming to consensus, while other students hung back and rarely contributed.
Introduction: The 21st Century Challenge
One of the primary issues facing American engineering in the 21st century is the global sourcing of complex services. Prior to 2000, outsourcing of routine engineering functions was commonplace. With growing demand and the improvement of off-shore engineering skills, engineering design, research and development, and innovation (once a trademark of American leadership in engineering) are increasingly moving abroad.1,2 To ensure competitiveness of American educated and trained engineers in the rapidly changing environment of the global economy, engineering education must not only help students develop strong scientific, technical and mathematical foundations, but also an integrated approach to problem solving that moves
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